On Monday, Governor Inslee extended Washington’s Stay-at-Home orders through May 31. Like a lot of us, I’ve had more time for reflection than usual. Ali and I moved from our home in North Carolina to Washington the same week public gatherings were officially banned. It’s a weird time. But here are some things I’ve been reflecting on and processing during this time. I hope they are encouraging to you!
1. Plans change, but God doesn’t
My brother and his fiancé had to cancel their wedding (they opted to have a private ceremony). My sister-in-law and her fiancé had to make alternative plans for theirs. When Ali and I moved to Washington, we did so with the plans that I would start seminary and get a job in ministry, both of which are on hold indefinitely until this thing clears up.
Yet, in the middle of this, God hasn’t changed. One of the last talks I gave at my former church was on Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” That’s a promise worth remembering.
2. Ministry is an activity, not an identity
At the beginning of our transition, I struggled with feeling, “If I don’t work at a church, what will I do?” As dumb as it sounds, taking “student pastor” off of my social media bio was hard. For the past four years, I’ve loved the opportunity to serve at a local church. Now, we can’t even meet with our new church in-person. But EVERY believer in Jesus is a minister. Building God’s Kingdom not something reserved for paid staff at a church. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples” whether you’re paid to do that or not.
How can I use this time to help others find and follow Jesus?
3. There’s a difference in active waiting and passive waiting
I’ve found myself waiting for things to be back to normal. There’s no doubt, we’re all in a time of waiting. But you don’t have to capitulate and pass the time with Netflix (although our Disney+ account is getting some good use).
The extra downtime is what inspired me to start blogging again. I’m hopping to stick with it past COVID-19 restrictions this time. If you’re not an essential worker on the frontlines, you probably have more downtime, too.
How can we use this time of waiting to grow in our relationship with God? To better love our family and our neighbors?
Speaking of family…
4. More time with family is not the same as time being PRESENT with them
Man, I’m so bad at this. All the time, I confuse being physically present with being mentally present and actually involved in the conversation. I want to be more present with my wife and our family. We have more downtime together than ever, but I want utilize that by actually present for it, not just scrolling Instagram.
5. Online church is a blessing, but not the same as being together with your church family
I’m incredibly thankful for churches like Life.Church who have cleared the way for churches to put their services online. The week I arrived in Washington was the same week public gatherings were cancelled, which meant no more in-person services for our local church.
Online services have allowed us to connect to a church, but without really being a part of them. We can’t wait to start serving and get plugged in to a community group, but until the restrictions are lifted, we are limited to just watching online.
6. I rarely pray for those outside of my immediate circle
How many millions of healthcare workers are putting their lives in danger every week? How many millions of people have been affected in some way by the virus? How many stressful and complex decisions face our lawmakers and government every day? How many people in the world have never heard of the gospel?
I almost never think about these things, much less pray for the people involved. Why do my prayers so often only revolve around my immediate family and my personal desires? My hope is God uses this time to make me more aware of what He is doing globally, not just in my small circle of the world.
7. I see God’s provision and timing in ways that I would have never expected
Through all of these changes, God has been so kind to us. My wife and I have jobs that are considered essential, so we’ve both worked full-time through the restrictions. I recognize that’s not the case for a lot of people, so we are very thankful. Ali’s parents have graciously allowed us to stay with them as we transition, which is a huge help.
Just the other night, Ali and I were reflecting on the fact that it may have felt overwhelming to move to a new place and instantly have a frenzy of activity going on between finding a place to live, finding jobs, getting involved in church activities. COVID-19 has slowed the pace of life down for us and allowed us to settle in before things get too crazy. That’s God’s provision.